Summary in Divorce
For a family broken by divorce, parenting is a tough climb up a steep hill.
Divorced parenting works best when both parents remember one axiom: a former spouse who hurts the childís other parent hurts the children. A child of divorce whose parents continue to battle lives in a no manís land where he or she is cut to pieces in a crossfire. Effective parenting is impossible. Divorced parents must rely on visitation (or what is now called "parenting time") and a parenting plan to build the parent-child relationship that is essential in the development of a child. This routine has built-in liabilities. One of the drawbacks of scheduled parenting time is that the best moments in life happen spontaneously. The children of divorce bob like debris in the wake of a failed marriage. A child of divorce carries a heavy load: he or she can seldom, if ever, be with both parents at the same time. At the least, each parent must reassure the children that they are loved and will be protected. The children often fall victim to two notions. One, they very often imagine they are the cause of their parentsí divorce. Divorcing parents must assure young children this is not the case. Two, they often fantasize about the reunification of their parents. After a divorce, the custodial parent, who is usually the mother, often finds that solo parenting leaves her harried, exhausted and drained. Even when a divorced father acts in good faith about support, solo mothers often dangle a paycheck from financial collapse. In some divorces, the noncustodial father becomes an odd man out whose physical removal from the child makes him a visitor, not a parent. Even when a father shares legal custody, his physical absence from the childís daily life makes a fatherís job more difficult. One of the unfortunate outcomes of noncustodial parenting happens when the parent remarries and has a second family with a new spouse. Very often, the noncustodial parent drifts out of the life of the child, who blames himself or herself for the loss of contact. Because visitation time is precious, the noncustodial parent should use it wisely. Shared experiences make for memories, and memories, unlike "stuff," last and get better with time. A "good" parenting agreement spells out the terms and conditions of custody; but no prewritten plan can spontaneously come to life in those moments when parents and children find meaning and beauty in the love they share for each other. "Letís have fun" can be a dead weight around the neck of an outing when dad shows up for his visitation. Moreover, divorced parents are often racked by guilt over the failure of their marriage, so they compensate by being excessively indulgent. Very often the children try to play one parent against the other, and because the parents are not present together, they cannot easily reinforce each other.
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